BBB Warning for senior citizens and lottery scams

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - Kelvin Collins is President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 77 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina.

He visited the Jennie show to share information from the following report by the Better Business Bureau:

A new report by Better Business Bureau (BBB) says sweepstakes, lottery and prize schemes are devastating victims financially and emotionally with ever-evolving methods. These frauds concentrate on seniors, targeting them by direct mail, cold calling, social media, even text messages and smartphone pop-ups. BBB warns consumers to be on guard against these serious and pervasive frauds and their perpetrators.

The report notes these scams bilked $117 million out of half a million Americans and Canadians in 2017 alone, with actual victims and losses likely numbering much higher. The Better Business Bureau  received 2,820 sweepstakes and lottery scam reports in Scam Tracker in 2017, with a median loss of $500. Seniors are the most frequent target and suffer the largest losses by far in these scams, which the report found commonly originate in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Nigeria.

Among the victims is a man in his 80s who was told in a 2015 phone call that he had won $60 million. He began sending money to get his "winnings," as callers insisted that he needed to pay transfer fees and taxes on the money. In multiple instances, he was informed that an armored truck awaited him with the money if he would first pay taxes on the funds. Fraudsters even showed up at his house to collect funds in person. A successful businessman, he did not need the "winnings," but hoped to donate them to worthy causes such as the university he had attended. Ultimately, he lost nearly $8 million.

Among the report's key findings:

The majority of lottery or sweepstakes scam victims are between 65 and 74 years old. Among that age group, people who recently experienced a serious negative life event, and who expect their income in the near future to remain steady or decline, are even more likely to be victimized.
Sweepstakes/lottery fraud can strike through many channels - phone calls, text messages, pop-ups on a smartphone's Internet browser, social media and mailings.

In 2017, 2,820 individuals reported sweepstakes and lottery scams to BBB Scam Tracker. These reports show a median loss of $500, with wire transfer as the most frequent method of payment.
Jamaica is a major source of "cold calls" to victims who are told they have won money. Although similar calls come from Costa Rica, the scam has had a major impact in Jamaica, where the amount of money generated by lottery fraud has resulted in gang wars between rival fraud groups, leading to a dramatic spike in violence. More than 95 percent of reported fraud in Jamaica involves lottery or sweepstakes scams.

BBB offers the following tips for consumers to avoid being caught in lottery or sweepstakes fraud:

*True lotteries or sweepstakes don't ask for money. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
*Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does have a sweepstakes but does not call people in advance to tell them they've won. Report PCH imposters to their hotline at 800-392-4190.
*Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.
*Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
*Law enforcement and government agencies do not call and award prizes.
*Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help you stay in control of your money in the face of fraudster pressure.

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